10/28 NXT ON USA TV REPORT: Hustwaite’s “alt-perspective” report on Halloween Havoc special including Priest vs. Gargano for the NXT North American Championship, Shirai vs. LeRae for the NXT Women’s Championship, more

By Matt Hustwaite, PWTorch Contributor


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NXT ON USA TV REPORT
OCTOBER 28, 2020
ORLANDO, FLA., AT CAPITOL WRESTLING CENTER
AIRED ON USA NETWORK
REPORT BY MATT HUSTWAITE, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR

Announcers: Vic Joseph, Beth Phoenix, Wade Barrett

[HOUR ONE]

– A Halloween themed video opened the show, with a spooky narrator hyping the main matches on the card. Vic Joseph welcomed viewers to the Capitol Wrestling Center, which was decked out for Halloween Havoc, including the classic, giant pumpkin on the set. Shotzi Blackheart was dressed in a green monster costume next to the “Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal” wheel.

– Entrances took place for the NXT North American Championship match. Damien Priest had his music played live by a band. Johnny Gargano cut the giant pumpkin which deflated as he made his entrance. Blackheart spun the wheel and it landed on a Devil’s Playground match.

(1) DAMIAN PRIEST (c) vs. JOHNNY GARGANO – Devil’s Playground match for the NXT North American Championship

Gargano was distracted by yelling at Blackheart which allowed Priest to take out Gargano. Priest hit Gargano with a flatliner. Gargano ended up in the corner and Priest hit a trio of flying back elbow shots. Priest dropped Gargano with a spinning heel kick and covered him for a two count. Gargano tried to turn the tables with a slingshot spear but was caught by Priest. Priest went for the Reckoning but Gargano managed to escape. Gargano dragged Priest to ringside and threw him into the steel steps. As Priest was laid out, Gargano retrieved a kendo stick from under the ring. However, before Gargano could use the kendo stick, Priest pulled out a nightstick and the two dueled with their weapons as the show went to picture-in-picture commercial. [c]

During the picture-in-picture commercial, Priest beat Gargano with the ring steps but Gargano gained control of the match by the time the show returned to full screen. Gargano dove off the stage and took Priest out with a cannonball. Gargano laid into Priest with repeated kendo stick shots before the action returned to the ring. Gargano went for an enziguri but was blocked by Priest, who used his nightstick. Priest got a two count after hitting a sitout chokeslam. Priest went for a kick but Gargano blocked it and landed an enziguri. Gargano dove at Priest at ringside but was caught by Priest. However, Gargano managed to counter Priest’s counter into an STO. Gargano followed up with a big Sliced Bread #2 on to the ring steps, with both men laid out recovering from the move.

Priest got to his feet first and launched Gargano into the announce desk with a Broken Arrow. The wrestlers brawled to a cemetery set that was in the arena as part of the Halloween Havoc theme. After getting scared by a dummy ghost in a casket, Gargano was beaten to the backstage area by Priest. Gargano used a fire extinguisher to turn the tables on Priest, before using a door and garbage can as weapons to score a two-count as the show went back to picture-in-picture commercial. [c]

Priest regained control during the picture-in-picture commercial and Gargano tried to escape to the “Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal” part of the set. Priest threw a garbage can at Gargano. Gargano landed a superkick on Priest once Priest made it up on to the set. Gargano used the garbage can on Priest while yelling that the wheel was stupid. Priest mounted a comeback with a pair of kicks. Priest went for the Reckoning but a masked person interfered and struck Priest with a kendo stick. Gargano hit Priest with a Tornado DDT and smashed a tombstone over Priest, which the masked man gave Gargano. The shot from the tombstone sent Priest falling from the set to the floor. Gargano made his way down to Priest and covered him for the victory.

WINNER: Johnny Gargano at 20:55

(Hustwaite’s Analysis: It might not make sense for Priest to drop the championship so soon, considering his really hot push. However, if this results in a dual champions storyline with Gargano and LeRae with the masked man being revealed as Austin Theory then all questions about this outcome would be negated. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Priest is on his way up to the main roster, as his work has been getting him over internally. As for the match, it was quite the contrast to their previous outing – but enjoyable nonetheless. 

– Vic Joseph and Wade Barrett appeared on camera and were dressed up for Halloween. Joseph was dressed as Waldo and Barrett was hilariously dressed as himself, in “Bad News Barrett” attire. Pat McAfee, along with Lorcan and Burch, were shown backstage heading to the ring. [c]

– William Regal was backstage with Cameron Grimes. Regal spookily instructed Grimes to follow him to the parking lot, as Grimes acted creeped out.

– McAfee, Lorcan and Burch were already in the ring and McAfee bragged about Lorcan and Burch winning the NXT Tag Team Championships last week. McAfee turned his attention to the crowd and said that even those “stooges” had to be impressed with McAfee’s in-ring debut. McAfee called Adam Cole a punk and said that he didn’t have time to deal with Cole because he was too busy with his many projects. McAfee revealed that he paid off Ridge Holland with a “big ass Mercedes Benz” to do his dirty work for him and that when Holland got injured he reached out to the guys that took him out. Lorcan and Burch were about to speak when Kyle O’Reilly entered the arena. The heel trio jawed at O’Reilly from the ring and Pete Dunne’s music hit. Dunne entered with two steel chairs and stood side-by-side with O’Reilly, but then turned on O’Reilly by hitting him with one of the chairs. Dunne, Lorcan and Burch triple-teamed O’Reilly as McAfee watched on. McAfee got in a beaten up O’Reilly’s face and told him that McAfee is smarter and that his crew are the new kings of NXT.

– Grimes and Regal were shown heading towards the parking lot as Grimes begged Regal to cancel the match with Dexter Lumis. Regal led Grimes to a van and Michael Hayes jumped out of the back, telling Grimes to get in. Grimes said that he hates rednecks as the van drove off, presumably to the match with Lumis. [c]

(Hustwaite’s Analysis: Dunne’s return answers the question as to who will make up the numbers in the inevitable Undisputed Era vs. McAfee Crew multi-man match (presumably War Games). This is a huge opportunity for Dunne to really shine as part of this new faction, and to work as a heel. Dunne looks to be in phenomenal shape too. I like the dynamic of Dunne, Lorcan and Burch being the bruising tough guys, with McAfee as their contrasting leader. This was McAfee’s best work on the mic to date for my money. He is settling into a more natural, heelish flow.)

(2) JAKE ATLAS vs. SANTOS ESCOBAR (w/Raul Mendoza & Joaquin Wilde)

Atlas and Escobar charged at each other, with Escobar coming out on top after landing a leaping kick to the face. Escobar worked over Atlas in the corner while talking trash. Atlas fired up and landed some punches followed by a back body drop. Atlas threw Escobar with a German suplex and covered him for a two-count. Atlas covered Escobar again after hitting a Rainbow DDT but Wilde got Escobar’s foot on the bottom rope for the break. Atlas launched himself over the top rope to take out Wilde and Mendoza. Atlas took on all three members of Legado del Fantasma on the outside until Mendoza headbutted him with the loaded Lucha mask. Mendoza put Atlas back in the ring where Escobar scored with a Phantom Driver for the win.

WINNER: Santos Escobar at 3:30

(Hustwaite’s Analysis: I’m not a fan of this match. Not because the action wasn’t good, despite the short match length, but because it seems to be a bit of a waste of talent. Atlas has been gradually building of late, but a three and half minute loss undoes a lot of that progress. I guess we will see another multi-man match at Takeover, but the booking should be getting more out of cruiserweight players like Atlas, so there are other options for Escobar feuds going forward once the Isaiah Scott feud ends.)

– An Ember Moon vignette aired. She targeted Dakota Kai and said that Kai was timid and scared when Moon was last in NXT. Moon said that she was glad that Kai stepped but, but that she would not like the receipt that was coming her way after attacking Moon.

– Shotzi Blackheart plugged the Haunted House of Terror match as coming up next. She howled as the announcers hyped the match and the show went to commercial. [c]

[HOUR ONE]

– Shotzi Blackheart was back with a costume change and introduced the Haunted House of Terror match.

(3) DEXTER LUMIS vs. CAMERON GRIMES – Haunted House of Terror Match

This match was shot in a cinematic style. Grimes arrived at the house in the van and tried to show confidence, yelling out that he was coming for Lumis. Grimes walked up to the house, unaware that Lumis was watching on from a tree. In the house, a number of horror movie and haunted house tropes scared Grimes, such as a tricycle riding by on its own accord, stuffed animals and a nod to the Blair Witch Project with a referee in the corner of a room. Lumis finally attacked Grimes, who escaped through a door. Lumis broke down the door and went after Grimes. Grimes entered a bathroom for the obligatory Psycho reference with a silhouette behind the shower curtain revealed as yet another horror – a zombie girl. Lumis went at Grimes who managed to escape after landing a kick to Lumis’ head. Grimes ended up in the kitchen where the zombie girl from the shower attacked him and applied a sleeper. They made their way outside and Grimes tossed the zombie girl into a lake. Grimes made a run for the van after being spooked by zombie wrestlers,  but Lumis was in the drivers seat. Grimes screamed and ran away as “to be continued” appeared on the screen.

(Hustwaite’s Analysis: Wade Barrett said that this was the weirdest match he has ever seen. If not for the Firefly Funhouse match, I would agree. However, this kind of match presentation at least fits in with the overall theme of the Halloween Havoc show. Not my cup of tea though, and it was more of a tour through a haunted house as opposed to a “match”.)

– The tale of the tape for the Rhea Ripley vs. Raquel Gonzalez was shown and Ripley made her entrance as the show went to commercial. [c]

(4) RHEA RIPLEY vs. RAQUEL GONZALEZ

Gonzalez controlled the match early on with knee strikes sending Ripley into the corner. Ripley tried for a suplex but Gonzalez overpowered her. Ripley landed a big headbutt and Gonzalez fired back after avoiding a roundhouse kick. Both wrestlers fronted up to each other in the middle of the ring and went back and forth with firey shoves and slaps. Gonzalez took Ripley down and dropped an elbow. Gonzalez went for a suplex but Ripley flipped out of the move. Ripley attempted to hit a succession of clotheslines but Gonzalez stood strong, to the shock of Ripley. Ripley hit the ropes and sent Gonzalez to the outside with a dropkick. Ripley dove at Gonzalez on the floor but Gonzalez caught her and sent her into the barrier as the show went to picture-in-picture commercial. [c]

Gonzalez maintained control of Ripley throughout the split-screen and had Ripley locked into a modified Gory Special. Ripley slipped out of the hold, but was quickly taken down again by a Gonzalez forearm. Ripley kept in the fight with a flurry of elbows but was drilled by Gonzalez with a clothesline for a two-count. Ripley backdropped Gonzalez and followed up with a series of knee strikes. Ripley locked in an inverted cloverleaf hold. Gonzalez was counted for two after her shoulders hit the mat. Gonzalez landed some kicks to Ripley’s face to escape the hold, and hit a spinning slam for a two-count.

Gonzalez worked Ripley into the corner and got her into position for a superplex. Ripley avoided the move and attempted a Super Riptide which Gonzalez managed to slip out of. Gonzalez launched Ripley from the top rope with a suplex and covered her for a nearfall. An “NXT” chant came from the crowd as Gonzalez screamed in anger. Gonzalez went for the one-arm powerbomb but Ripley countered with a head scissors. Ripley scored with the Rip Tide for the win.

WINNER: Rhea Ripley at 12:50

– Back to the cinematic feel as Cameron Grimes was shown running down a road as Vic Joseph speculated that he was on his way to the Capitol Wrestling Center. [c]

(Hustwaite’s Analysis: This was quite a spectacle, but one where you are left knowing that there is more to see from these two given more time and a bigger stage. Gonzalez did not look out of place working with Ripley and their similar styles meshed very well. These two showed that they deserve another go-around on a Takeover card and I am sure we will see it.)

– McKenzie Mitchell was backstage with Drake Maverick, who was dressed up for Halloween as Hulk Hogan. A pair of big men muscled themselves on either side of Maverick until Killian Dain made the save in a Shockmaster costume. Maverick was disappointed that Dain didn’t trip over like Shockmaster infamously did. Maverick took the mask from Dain and tripped over, to the amusement of Dain.

(5) DEXTER LUMIS vs. CAMERON GRIMES – Haunted House of Terror Match (Part 2)

Grimes made his way into the backstage area and stumbled upon the graveyard set. A group of zombies appeared and drove Grimes towards the ring. Lumis was behind Grimes and unleashed on Grimes, culminating with a spinebuster. Grimes tried to escape but the zombies stopped him. Grimes actually landed a Cave In on one of the zombies. A nod to The Ring now, as the young girl character crawled on to the Lumis’ shoulders. Lumis threw her onto Grimes and hit a sit-out Uranage. Lumis applied the Silencer and Grimes passed out.

WINNER(?): Dexter Lumis

– Smoke filled the ring and the zombies lurked around the ring and on the apron. Lumis left the ring and left the zombies to crawl over Grimes. A bloody “The End” came on the screen as Lumis stared into the camera.

– A promo video for the NXT Women’s Championship match aired and Shotzi Blackheart hyped spinning the wheel for after the break. [c]

(Hustwaite’s Analysis: I suppose these off-the-wall cinematic matches are an acquired taste. I respect the cinematic production and creativity that goes into them, Jeremy Borash and his crew do an outstanding job. However, I just find them so jarring and disconnected from everything else that is on the show. At least this second half was more conventional than the full cinematic shoot of the first half, but the inclusion of the zombies and the smoke creates a completely separate reality, from what aired before and after, that I find hard to deeply engage with.)

– Tommaso Ciampa cut a promo and said that he doesn’t recognise NXT anymore. He praised the talent but declared that the attitude and culture had changed. He accused the roster of being entitled and said that it’s not Monopoly where everyone gets a turn. Ciampa said that he never asked for anything and that he was NXT for a long time. He thinks it’s time he took NXT back and declared that Velveteen Dream is his first step. He praised Dream as a prodigy but closed by saying “Hit me with a cast once, shame on me – hit me with a cast twice, you’re a dead man.”

(Hustwaite’s Analysis: A strong promo from Ciampa which rang true in many ways about how NXT has changed over time. He was particularly biting with referencing that Dream can’t get out Dream’s own way, which can’t help but be looked at as a subtle reference to Dream’s out-of-ring issues.)

– LeRae entered the arena in a costume reminiscent of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Shirai had her entrance theme performed live by internet star Poppy. Shotzi Blackheart spun the wheel and it landed on “Tables, Ladders and Scares”

(Hustwaite’s Analysis: I don’t know what the “scares” entails, asides from just rhyming with chairs, but I do know that we’ll see some full-on action with LeRae in this match environment.)

(6) IO SHIRAI (c) vs. CANDICE LERAE – Tables, Ladders and Scares match for the NXT Women’s Championship

Shirai landed the first blow of the match and LeRae escaped to ringside for a breather. Shirai dove on to LeRae and went to get a ladder, but LeRae stopped her by shoving her into the ring apron. LeRae grabbed a bag and looked like she was going to puke as various prop body parts emptied out of it. Shirai used a prop arm as a weapon. Shirai charged at LeRae who sent Shirai into a ladder with a drop toe hold. Shirai countered an Irish whip attempt at ringside and sent LeRae into the ring post. Shirai tossed LeRae over the announce table. LeRae found a laptop and hit Shirai with it. LeRae set up a ladder between the ring and announce table, and gave Shirai enough time to recover and throw a chair at her. Shirai dropped LeRae with a suplex on the floor as the show went to a picture-in-picture commercial. [c]

Shirai kept control of the match through the commercial break and brought a ladder into the ring after the show came back in full screen. LeRae followed Shirai with a ladder of her own and stopped Shirai from climbing up to the championship belt. With LeRae on a ladder, Shirai hit her with a palm strike, followed by a backbreaker. Shirai went up top for a moonsault, but LeRae avoided impact and Shirai crashed and burned into a pile of chairs. LeRae grabbed one of the chairs and smashed it over the back of Shirai. LeRae went for a suplex but Shirai countered with a suplex of her own onto an open chair. Shirai climbed the ladder but LeRae was able to pull her down. LeRae wore a big slap from Shirai and ended up back in the corner against a ladder. Shirai charged and went for the Meteora, but LeRae got out the way and Shirai crashed into the ladder.

LeRae took to the top rope but Shirai managed to recover and rocked her with a strike. While LeRae was dazed, Shirai setup a pair of chairs underneath LeRae. Shirai climbed up to superplex LeRae but LeRae countered. LeRae tried to kick Shirai and was countered with a chair, causing LeRae’s leg to get stuck. Shirai hit a Dragon Screw and LeRae made it to the apron to try recover. From the apron, LeRae hit a big swinging neckbreaker through a stack of tables at ringside. Both wrestlers were laid out in the pile of broken tables as an “NXT” chant rung out.

A masked person, similar to whom interfered in Gargano’s match earlier, ran in and dragged LeRae up the ladder. Shotzi Blackheart cut them off and suplexed the masked person, before brawling with them to the back. Shirai setup a new ladder next to LeRae’s ladder and started to climb. LeRae pushed Shirai off, but she landed on her feet. Shirai grabbed LeRae’s ladder and sent her crashing on to the ladder bridge that LeRae had setup earlier in the match. Shirai looked pleased with herself and climbed the ladder to retrieve the championship belt and win the match.

WINNER: Io Shirai at 16:30

– Shirai posed with her NXT Women’s Championship atop the ladder to close the show.

(Hustwaite’s Analysis: This was a real high-risk spectacle of a match that was, at points, flat out scary – and not in a Halloween way. One trusts these two to navigate their way through the risky stunt spots and avoid serious injury though. The series of matches between these two have been nothing short of phenomenal, traversing a range of styles which further highlights their skill and chemistry. I imagine that the masked person in this match was Indi Hartwell and that we’ll see the reveal of a Gargano faction soon.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: I’ll give NXT credit, they committed to the Halloween Havoc theme and presented a unique show within that context. Not all of it landed for me, but it still made for a consistently entertaining two hours. However, I could do without anymore gimmicky, themed shows for a while. The most interesting thing to look out for coming out of this show is definitely the McAfee et.al vs. Undisputed Era feud. It is fortunate that they are able to have this play out in a prominent position, as it serves to distract us from the absence of the injured NXT Champion Finn Balor. I continue to be impressed by how well NXT is able to pivot in response to unfortunate injuries, and the surprise turn of Pete Dunne well and truly makes up for the injured Ridge Holland.

Make sure to check out Kelly Wells’ report for his perspective on this show and make sure to check out the PWT Talks NXT podcast in the Audio section. You can find me on Twitter at @mattyhuss. 

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